Ray Miller was cooking for his daughter one day when he told her he would make chocolate chicken. At the time the recipe involved a simple chocolate syrup and a few other ingredients.
“I know because I’m her daddy, she said this is good,” Miller laughed, but he knew the recipe could be improved when he brought it in to one of his chefs at SoulFood Artist, a new takeout eatery opening at 8052 Frankford Ave. later this month.
Chocolate chicken is just one standout on the menu of food for the soul, which also features the likes of lemon pepper salmon, baked mac and cheese, candied yams, turkey wings, “kamikaze” wing sauce and a lot more. Miller, who also owns Head Artist Unisex Salon located diagonally across the street from SoulFood, felt these offerings were missing from the neighborhood.
“My barbershop is multicultural, and I wanted my restaurant to be multicultural, too,” Miller said. “And in a community right now where it is that way, I think it would be really good.” When he originally announced he bought the property that used to be Chung’s Kitchen, the social media post got 20,000 likes.
Miller said he noticed an abundance of pizza and Chinese food stores in the area, but nothing for African American culture. Originally envisioning it as a chicken and doughnut store three years ago, he decided to offer a variety of sides as well and open an entire shop.
“People of every culture have been coming at me saying this is what we wanted around here and thanking me, every day walking up the street or beeping their horn,” he said.
The restaurant will celebrate its grand opening Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at 2 p.m. Miller chose the day because King was a lover of soul food.
“With all the violence in the city I felt like it was a premiere date to do it on a day of service,” he said.
On opening day Joey O’s Private Pub next door will open its facility so customers will have a space to sit down to eat. SoulFood itself does not feature seating – customers will simply walk up to the counter to order their food.
Though Miller has no culinary experience himself outside of his own kitchen, he knows how to build a business, and that includes selecting a team to bring their experience to the table. Miller hand selected four chefs to run the kitchen, including giving them freedom to offer a revolving “item of the week” that will use their creativity and cook something they are passionate about.
One chef, 25-year-old Kierra Mickeals, was cooking meals out of her own kitchen and selling them on Instagram when Miller reached out to her.
“It was like a blessing because I was already doing it and this is what I love to do,” she said.
The kamikaze wings feature a sweet and spicy punch, while Miller said his chefs’ turkey wings and mac and cheese will have customers returning just for them. SoulFood hosted a series of popup shops, with the store open for a limited time to attract new customers and gather feedback.
“One of the things I’m most impressed about is how many people of different color and different races are coming around me and appreciating what I’m doing. That’s real big to me because we’re in that kind of area,” he said.
Check out the restaurant’s website here.